By: Amanda Guarragi
There are two ways to look at the adult film industry, as a job or as something morally wrong. Ti West explores sexuality and religion in the late 70s with the rise of the adult film industry in X. In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast finds themselves fighting for their lives. The women in this cast all gave strong performances and they are the reason this film doesn’t fully fall apart. However, once the second half hits, and they all disperse, that’s when it all goes downhill. Writer-director Ti West attempted to use his flashy camerawork and choppy transitions to mask the fact that he simply just wanted an excuse to make a tasteful adult film without being shamed.
The one thing that really impressed me was the camerawork. From the very first frame, I knew that the visuals were going to overpower the story, I just didn’t know how much. Stylistically, it felt like a true flashback to the 70s with the angles, shadows, and sound design. West also paid homage to Kubrick’s The Shining with an axe through the door and it was great. Along with the great directorial choices, the kills were incredibly strong. Most of the kills came out of nowhere and you didn’t really expect them to happen, they also went on for longer than they should have, but it worked. West did build the anticipation with each kill; the only issue is that he saved them all for the second half and we already knew the outcome because it was shown at the beginning.
If it weren’t for Brittany Snow, Jenna Ortega and Mia Goth doing what they could with a pretty concerning screenplay, then this would have been a totally different movie. The downfall of X is that you could feel that a man directed this and it is rather exploitative. There are moments throughout this film that make you cringe because of the dialogue and what actually happens with these characters. West does touch upon beauty and ageism in the most twisted way possible, but as a man I don’t think he fully understood the way women view themselves at any age. The second half of this film is just very concerning as the concept gets away from West and goes off the rails, while still being quite predictable with its horror conventions.
X attempts to divert the viewer’s attention with its flashy camerawork, wicked transitions, and unique sound mixing, so they don’t pay attention to the actual story. If you want sex, blood, and gore, then you definitely get it but don’t expect any sort of substance from this movie. West believes that he had some sort of relevant social commentary that would shine through with his female characters in giving them some sort of sexual freedom, but it didn’t really go anywhere. The first act was all set up, and then the horror elements kicked in and West just abandoned what he had set up in the first place. What happens in this film is really questionable and even though he stylistically paid homage to 70s horror, the script just wasn’t strong enough.